Brushes with celebrity


We’ve all had brushes with celebrities. Working at a large East Coast university has brought lots of them my way.  Some years ago I was in a bookstore in downtown Providence at lunchtime, and I was trying to look at something on a lower shelf, and a tall lanky balding older guy was trying to look at the same shelf, and we got in each other’s way. And we glared at each other.  And – oh Jesus – it was Peter Boyle.



Partner and I like strolling in Manhattan, and one day we had a twofer: an Edie Falco sighting in a pastry shop (everybody in the place was on his/her cell phone, reporting that Edie was only two tables away!), and a Brad Garrett sighting on Broadway (he was eighteen inches taller than everyone else, and he was fairly radiating don’t-even-think-about-approaching-me!).  Also Daniel Davis, Niles from “The Nanny,” who’d been in the production of “La Cage aux Folles” we’d just seen, smiling in the rain, signing autographs.  Also the guy who played the mayor on “Gilmore Girls,” in line for “Spamalot,” bitchy and gossipy.



A friend here in Rhode Island is acquainted with a major local politician; she babysits her dogs, for god’s sake.  They were in a burger joint together, and the girl behind the counter squinted at Major Politician oddly. “I’ve seen you on TV,” she said. “Or in the newspaper. Right?”



Major Politician smiled. “Probably you have,” she said. “I’m Major Politician.”



The girl thought for a moment, then shrugged. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know who that is.”



Ah well.



But sometimes there is a perfect celebrity moment:



One of my acquaintances is lucky enough to be acquainted with the immortal Candice Bergen.  They were in a local Starbucks, and the barista said: “You look just like Murphy Brown.”



And Candice Bergen said, without batting an eye: “You know, a lot of people tell me that.”







Missing children, Nancy Grace, and Dan Abrams


Partner and I get up at 7:00 am or a little after. We have slightly different routines. I go into the living room, read my email and drink my coffee; he stays in the bedroom, reads his email, watches “Good Morning America,” and drinks his coffee.



Naturally I can hear most of the dialogue.



At 7:30am, “Good Morning America” almost invariably features a story about a missing child.  The child is almost always white, by the way. They usually have the irrational Nancy Grace and the mostly-imperturbable Dan Abrams doing Point Counterpoint on the subject.



Naturally there’s no real information.  Nancy always assumes the worst, and declares it, and announces that anyone who disagrees with her is a fool and an ivory-tower intellectual and a goddamned liberal.



Dan Abrams usually points out, mildly, that all the facts aren’t in, and more work needs to be done on the case.



Nancy explodes, calls Dan an ivory-tower intellectual and a goddamned liberal, and wants to know why more isn’t being done to bring this case to its (obvious) conclusion.



Some thoughts:



        I wonder how many missing children there are in the USA today. 

        I wonder how many of them are non-white. 

        I wonder why we so seldom hear about the non-white missing children on “Good Morning America,” and I wonder if it’s because they’re just not considered to be so angelically adorable.

        I wonder that they pair the astonishingly illogical Nancy Grace with the perfectly reasonable Dan Abrams, and allow her to snarl at him idiotically, just for the sake of TV entertainment.

        I wonder what percentage of these poor children are ever located.



And finally: I wonder that the TV doesn’t actually explode with the whole idiotic illogicality of the thing.


The recirculation of things


I wrote recently about the “100 Things Challenge.” I got a lovely response from a new WordPress blogger who writes under the name LearnShareChange, about how difficult it is to get rid of things because of our sentimental attachments to them.



How horribly true!



I love things, all kinds of things.  I am sentimental about them.  I have odd little things from my childhood, things that (somehow!) I have saved for almost fifty years.  One is a prize from a bag of Fritos sometime in the early 1960s, a little plastic coin with a picture of Laika the Russian space dog. It was a Heroes of Space series, and I loved that little dog.



Over the years, I have accumulated so many more things.  Books, and collectibles, and clothes, and gadgets.  Bags of them, boxes of them.



But – and here’s the funny thing about it – when someone sees one of my things and says: “I really like that,” I almost invariably give it to them.  Without hesitation.



They are startled, but they almost always take it.



My dear friend Sylvia calls this “the recirculation of things.”  She’s a collector too: dolls, toys, all kinds of things.  But she’s the way I am.  She wants things to keep moving.  (Her husband passed away last year, and she spent a lot of time giving away things afterward; she’s given me some lovely silver spoons, and a set of Bugs Bunny tumblers.)  She (like me) loves to own things, and see them, and have them for a while, but that’s usually enough: when someone else says that they like the thing, she gives it to them. 






As do I.



I love toys.  I adore stuffed animals.  I even keep them in the office.  But when I see the child of a co-worker admiring one of the funny little bears up on the shelf, I usually let them know that, if there’s an animal they can’t live without, I will let them take it.






They are just things.  Just silly things.  I suppose there are a few things in the house I couldn’t stand to live without: my Laika coin, and my old teddy bear.  And I think my brother still has my moon-globe in his garage; I was given it for Xmas 1969, five months after the first moon landing, and I still think about it. (I should ask him about that.)  And a handful of other things, small things mostly, with family significance, mostly worthless. 



Those things I will never give away.



Everything else, you can have, I think. 



Fifty years from now, it won’t matter to me a bit.


Cory Booker


Hey, Cory Booker. It was very neat of you to pull that woman out of that burning building. And I loved the way in which you addressed Chris Christie on gay marriage. (I’m always thrilled when I see Democrat politicians doing worthwhile things.)



What the hell were you thinking about on May 20 on “Meet The Press”?



You sniped at the President’s anti-big business stance, saying that it “nauseated” you.



But you were, and are, a designated surrogate for the President when you speak.



Did you remember that on May 20 on “Meet the Press”? Did you realize that you were on television?



You spent most or all of last week apologizing for what you said, and (contrariwise) defending what you said. You said you were entitled to a mistake, and that it was no big deal



Meanwhile, the Republicans are gloating and using your words to advance their own position.






We had such high hopes for you.



And now you turn out to be a nudnik after all.



Ah well.



(It’s a shame. You were nice-looking, and smart. Until you opened your stupid yap.)



We’ll find someone else to take your place.



Bye now.


For Sunday: a morose Danish take on Donald Duck (not for kids! NFSW!)


Maybe you’ve read some of the Stieg Larsson books about that tattooed girl who kills bad people. Maybe you’ve seen “The Killing,” with its quiet Danish take on murder.



So: do you picture Scandinavians as morose neo-Nazi drug-dealing murderers?



Okay.  Then this video is for you.



This video is by a Danish comedy group.  It’s Donald Duck and his nephews, and Daisy, and Goofy, and Uncle Scrooge, as you’ve never seen them.  Just so you know: it’s definitely not for kids, and NSFW.








Getting rid of a hundred things


There is something running around the Internet right now called the “100 Thing Challenge.”  It is being promoted by a fellow named Dave Bruno, who blogs about simple living.  It is much better, he writes, to simplify our lives by getting rid of things we don’t really need, and to refuse to get more things we don’t need.



I am in favor of this idea, very much.



I am also a huge packrat. 



I have mounted my own informal version of the 100 Thing Challenge several times over the past twenty years.  It’s always successful, more or less, but then I discover after a few months / years that the heaps of things reappear.



Dave Bruno recommends a three-pronged approach:



·       REDUCE the number of things you own.  Trash them, give them away, sell them.

·       REFUSE to buy more things you don’t need.  (This one’s tricky. I see a garlic press or a travel steamer and think, “I need that!”  It’s a misuse of the word “need,” I know.  And yet: I didn’t need that wok I bought at Ikea, but it was five bucks, and now I use it regularly.  Unlike the talking meat thermometer I bought at Brookstone, or the cheapo e-reader I bought at Bed Bath & Beyond that didn’t really work very well, or the cheapo MP3 player I bought online that doesn’t work very well . . . )

·       REJIGGER your priorities so that you don’t keep falling back into the same trap.



There’s a frequent refrain here: don’t be sentimentalDon’t keep something just because someone gave it to you, or because it reminds you of a dead relative.  Your memories are more precious than those things.



But I have an issue with this.  Sometimes I keep things specifically because they remind me of people, or places, or pleasant times in my life.  I have the memory, sure, but without something to summon the memory, it’s lost in the whirl.  Then I notice my copy of the King Arthur Cookbook on the shelf, and I remember that I bought it in Padanaram, Massachusetts, in April 2000, on a day trip with Partner, and I remember the weather was cool, and we had a nice lunch in a local restaurant, and I had grilled green beans, and they were very good.  That memory would be lost in the shuffle without something to help me recall it.  



But I do like the idea of getting rid of things.  



So let’s get started, shall we?


1.     A VHS copy of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I don’t need it. I know the whole Charlie Brown Christmas special by heart, including the pauses and the tones of voice and all of the music. (On the other hand, I was given this video by a dear friend, who passed away a few years ago.)  Gulp. Okay. Out it goes to the Salvation Army.

2.     A DVD copy of “Revenge of the Zombies.” I bought it in a dollar store for a laugh, and never watched it.  That’s an easy one. (On the other hand: it takes up almost no space, and it might be good for a laugh on a rainy afternoon one of these days.) This is a slightly easier decision: it goes on the Salvation Army pile.  If I regret my decision, I can probably buy another copy of it at the same dollar store.

3.     A used copy of Janice Dickinson’s autobiography.  I tried reading it a few years ago and found that I just didn’t care about the life of Janice Dickinson.  I have a little problem getting rid of unfinished books, however, so it’s still on the shelf.  Easier decision than the first two.  Salvation Army!

4.     A new copy (unread) of “Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations.”  Interesting topic. If I read it, I might learn something about the recent history of the Middle East.  On the other hand, I will probably never read it.  Let’s mark this one “undecided,” shall we?

5.     A whole stack of DVD opera recordings, with librettos.  I bought these over the years, thinking that an intelligent person’s music library really needed copies of “Les Dialogues des Carmelites,” and “Boris Godunov,” and “Lakme.”  I was wrong.  These were not cheap, however. I’ve tried to sell them on eBay, and – surprisingly – there’s not much of a market for used opera recordings, no matter how good they are.  They will sit on the shelf until I find buyers.  (Readers: let me know.  I have a bunch of these.  If you’re an operaphile, drop me a line, and I will give you the whole inventory.  Maybe we can strike a deal.)



I’m exhausted, and I’ve only gotten up to #5 on the list.



I can see why they call this a “challenge.”


Ancient aliens


Partner and I like to watch those programs on Discovery and TLC and Syfy about Ancient Aliens.  You know: the aliens who built (or helped build) the Pyramids, and Machu Picchu. They designed the Nazca Lines. They fitted together the stones of Tihuanaco.  They brought Prescelly bluestone hundreds of miles, overland, to build Stonehenge. Our ancestors painted pictures of them, and told stories of them.



I am very happy to believe in alien life.  In fact, I think it’s silly not to believe in alien life.  The universe is utterly bloody vast, and it would be ridiculous to think that we were the only walking talking things in it.  I have two problems with the Ancient Aliens theory, however:



        Where did they all go? They were (evidently) all over the place in our ancestors’ days; now they’ve keeping a very low profile.  How come?  Are they afraid of us?

        Why in the hell would they come here? What do we have to offer? Water? There’s water everywhere in space; if they wanted water, they could probably mine comets.  Metal ore? Hydrocarbons? Nah. I’m with Douglas Adams on this one: the best thing you can say about Earth is that we’re “mostly harmless.”



I also have a problem with the UFOlogists who keep giving us humanoid aliens, and horse aliens, and elephant aliens, and kitty-cat aliens.  Alien life, if/when we find it, will probably be far more peculiar than we can imagine now. I’ll wager that it doesn’t even use DNA.  Scientists (human scientists) have already come up with a number of other molecules that can self-replicate. (Admittedly they’re amino-acid based, but it’s a step in the right direction.) The aliens, when we finally meet them, will be blobs, or sighing clouds of methane with rubbery coverings, or bundles of sticks, or potted plants.


And they will have absolutely no interest in building Stonehenge.


(But it’s fun to think about.)



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